Natasha Mitchell: Well Matthieu and Alan can I bring you both in here, do you see meditation as the only vehicle for studying happiness as a way of being?
Matthieu Ricard: Well not if we think of meditation again as sitting under a mango tree and emptying your mind—but if meditation means to cultivate until it becomes familiar—yes, for sure, what will come without training? That would make no sense. So meditation is training of that spoilt brat of the mind. And unless you do that it will remain chaotic....
Natasha Mitchell: Daniel, I wonder whether we can apply science definitively to working out why the hell we often pursue things that absolutely make us unhappy but we think that they will make us happy—money is a great one; the expectation is that we should desperately quest for money and it will make us happy. Yet we keep stumbling into a state of unhappiness in relation to our relationship with money—so what can science say about why we keep doing that, is there an evolutionary compulsion?
... why doesn't someone when they get to that future just tell the rest of us to stop questing?
Daniel Gilbert: Oh they do, they do all the time and we make sure not to listen. What we say from other people's experience is well you're not exactly like me, you know I understand that getting the vacation home in Hawaii didn't do it for you, I don't know what's wrong with you, it sure would make me happy. Look Alan was alluding to...there's lots of data on lottery winners—guess what, on average they are as happy as people who don't win the lottery. Some are ecstatic; some are miserable. Tell that to everybody and they nod and they say, 'But yes, if I won the lottery... So I think one of the things we really fail to do is learn from people who've already visited the very future that we're contemplating, who have real data to share with us and the reason we don't listen is we think we are marvellously unique. Well guess what, human beings are remarkably the same when it comes to their emotional reactions to stimuli, that's why everybody laughs at a Comedy Club, they cry at a funeral—we basically have the same responses. You can learn a lot from other people.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The search continues
ABC Australia joins an all-star cast of philosophers, neuroscientists, monks (and some who are a combination of those!) in a terrific continuation of the neuroscience/Buddhism collaboration on happiness.